We have entered the most solemn and holiest days of the Liturgical Year, Holy Week. As our Lenten journey comes to an end, we enter more fully into the suffering, passion and glory of our most beloved Lord. Now just days away from the Sacred Triduum. We began our week with Palm Sunday, praising and glorifying God as he made his way up to Jerusalem. Spreading cloaks and palm branches on the road to welcome the King of Kings. “The whole multitude of his disciples began to praise God aloud with joy for all the mighty deeds they had seen.” Luke 19:37. Moments later in the liturgy we hear the narrative of the Passion of Christ, the very same crowd now denying their knowledge of Christ and joining the crowds calling out for his crucifixion.
This time of year is one of my favorites. All of our preparations during Lent, our small sacrifices and offerings are now made glorious as we celebrate the joy of the Resurrection. The hope that belongs to each of us, after every Good Friday there comes Easter Sunday. Our suffering is not in vain, but instead made glorious in the Cross and Resurrection of Christ.
I love to see my children’s excitement in anticipation of Easter morning, counting down each day as they look forward to joyfully proclaiming the banned Lenten “A” word, Alleluia. The elation at seeing all of their sacrifice beans transformed into jelly beans. Finding our homemade tomb empty and the adventure of searching for the Risen Christ.
The Triduum liturgies, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil, are filled with so much symbolism, meaning, depth, and richness. The smell of incense, the bells, the darkness, the silence, the candles glowing, the reverence, there is so much to be taken in. Although as a mother to young children, it sometimes seems like an acrobatic workout attending multiple days of longer liturgies during bedtime and nap time. It’s easy to have my focus simply on how to keep everyone from meltdowns. Last year we attended the almost three hour Easter Vigil with five young children. Call us brave or call us crazy, perhaps a little of both!
As we try to keep our children focused during Mass and to help them have some understanding of what we are entering into I have found it beneficial to take some elements of the liturgy and bring them into the home, the domestic church.
This day is a celebration of Christ giving us both the Eucharist and the Institution of the Priesthood. Have a Passover meal. Some suggestions for a meal; lamb, roast beef, or steak, unleavened bread, potatoes, applesauce, greens, wine or grape juice. Have the husband wash the wife’s and children’s feet. Recite or sing the Gloria while ringing bells. Turn off all of the lights and fill the house with lit candles. Stream Eucharistic Adoration, trying to keep a more peaceful and quiet tone as you put the children to bed.
Read through the Passion narrative, with each person taking different speaking parts. Have a cross or crucifix present that can be venerated as we normally do during the liturgy with a bow or a kiss. Ask the children to draw pictures of Jesus on the cross and then place them in an empty shoebox and seal it shut, to symbolize the tomb. Pray the Stations of the Cross, placing them throughout the house so it will be as if you are walking the road to Calvary with Christ.
Holy Saturday starts in darkness, usually outside of the church with a fire used to light the Easter candle. Have a bonfire and sit around it while reading some of the readings from the Vigil Mass, or perhaps all eight of them. This traditionally is a day when catechumens enter the Church and are baptized or confirmed. Light everyone’s baptismal candles, and look at pictures or watch recordings of the children’s baptisms. Pray or sing the Litany of the Saints, which is usually done when there are candidates for baptism.
Have a blessed Holy Week!
(Hoping this crazy stomach bug that hit our house stays far away from yours!)